With nearly 6,000 planets discovered beyond the Solar System, humankind is closer than it has ever been to answering the question: “Are we alone in the universe?” And yet, much remains to be done. Many factors and processes can affect planetary climate and habitability, and their effects must be understood to accurately determine a planet's potential for hosting life. Professor Shields will describe the methods her research group uses to quantify the effects on planetary climate of a range of factors that are currently unconstrained by observations. She will share recent results from this work using a hierarchy of computer models, and discuss the implications of these results for planetary habitability and the identification of those planets most capable of supporting life. Sharing excerpts from her new memoir, Life on Other Planets, Shields will also speak about her struggle to fit in as a Black woman in astronomy, her nontraditional career path, and the holistic ways of working soft and resting more that were instrumental to finding her place in the universe, and thriving both personally and professionally.


Meckler - A Shields


Dr. Aomawa Shields is an astronomer, astrobiologist, classically trained actor, and writer. She is the Clare Boothe Luce Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of California, Irvine (UCI). She was named a 2015 TED Fellow and is the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER award and NASA Habitable Worlds and Exoplanets Research Program grants, among others. She is the founder and director of Rising Stargirls, a program dedicated to encouraging girls of all colors and backgrounds to learn about, explore, and discover the universe using theater, writing, and visual art. Her new memoir, Life on Other Planets: A Memoir of Finding My Place in the Universe, was published by Viking in July 2023. Shields has presented her book in various events and has been showcased on Good Morning America, MSNBC, Talks at Google and many more. She is the proud mother of 6-year-old rising stargirl Garland-Rose, who she and husband Steven have deemed the most extraordinary lifeform in their universe.